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Could the midterms end the Republican veto-proof majority in the General Assembly?

Students and local residents participate in early voting at Chapel of the Cross today.
Students and local residents participate in early voting at Chapel of the Cross today.

As voting registration comes to an end, voters across the state are bracing for the upcoming midterms, which could cause a significant political shift in the composition of the N.C. General Assembly.

Republicans currently hold a supermajority in both houses, and as a result, the past two years have been marked by the legislature overriding a high number of Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes.

Cooper, a Democrat, has had difficulty implementing policies on topics such as environmental protection, education and voting laws due to this ideological divide, said Rob Schofield, the director of NC Policy Watch.

The midterms, however, could put an end to that. 

Schofield said the polarization surrounding President Donald Trump has energized and mobilized Democrats, progressives and left-leaning independents. He said it's probable that Democrats will break the supermajority.

“The Democrats have marshaled candidates in every district, which is not something that they have done in the past,” he said. 

Rick Henderson, editor-in-chief of "Carolina Journal," a John Locke Foundation publication, said he expects changes, but there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the results. 

“I think it’s relatively likely that the Republicans will have a much smaller majority in the House,” he said. 

Henderson said between 15 and 18 seats in the House either have no incumbent seeking reelection or are considered competitive. The Senate, where Republicans have 20 more seats than Democrats, is less contentious. If Republicans lose just three of their 74 House seats, however, they will lose their supermajority and veto power. 

What may undermine the Democrats’ momentum is the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, which Schofield said is likely to reinvigorate conservatives and Republicans.  

Schofield said he doubts total voter turnout will be greater than usual. He expressed concerns about how the damage from Hurricane Florence will affect citizens’ ability to vote.

In 28 counties, the voter registration deadline was extended from Oct. 12 to Monday, but Henderson said nearly one-third of the state’s counties were devastated by Florence.

Many in the affected counties might encounter difficulty reaching the polls. 

“The state election officials are very competent and capable, but sometimes the infrastructure is not as good as it should be,” he said.

Some of the counties that have voted Democrat in the past are in the eastern half of the state and are among those devastated. 

If Democrats do break the supermajority, which both Henderson and Schofield think will happen, state issues regarding constitutional amendments, public education spending, voting laws and tax cuts will be affected by a shifting balance in ideologies. 

The General Assembly will also likely have to redraw congressional districts since the current ones are under federal review for gerrymandering, and depending on if the supermajority is broken, the districts could look different.

While a lot of uncertainty hangs in the air, both Henderson and Schofield are sure the political composition of the assembly will change considerably. 


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